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Best Travel Bags For Summer

Whether you’re traveling for work, play or both, there’s no reason not to do it in style this summer season. Travel bags have gotten some serious design and tech updates over the last few years, making it easier to stay organized, comfortable and fly – while on the road.  

I compared more than 50 of the newest carry-on friendly, travel bags on the market and narrowed the list down to my top picks for summer based on usability, weight, style, design – and, of course – price.  

So, ditch your bulky luggage and check out the list before you book your next flight, road-trip or must-needed getaway.  After all, the journey is half the fun. Pack accordingly;)!

– Best Travel Bags For Summer – 

Smartie Pants: 

The  Raden A22 Carry is as smart as it is pretty.  The 22-inch bag comes installed with two USB ports that allow you to charge your cell phone or tablet, a built-in scale that can tell you how much your packed bag weighs, and GPS so you never need to worry about the airlines losing your suitcase (if you do decide to check it). There’s also a smartphone app you can sync to your smartphone for monitoring, a TSA approved lock and 360-degree spinning wheels for easy movement –  all in an 8.4 lbs polycarbonate shell.

The Raden A22 is $295 and is available in 12 fun colors. 

Sleek Stunner: 

Coming in at a mere 6.5 lbs with 360-degree spinning wheels, the vintage-looking Rockland Stage Coach 20 Inch Rolling Trunk makes dashing anywhere a breeze. The 20-inch suitcase has a clamshell design, faux leather trim, is made of sturdy abs and comes in four styles and colors. It’s a looker at $200 and half the price of similarly-styled designer carry-ons.  

Spotted Style: 

This Women’s Weekender from Merona is anything but basic. Made out of cotton the bag is soft to the touch. It also measures 14.5 inches x 30 inches x 12.5 inches making it large enough to haul several changes of clothes along with a laptop and multiple pockets to store valuables. The bag zips shut and features double handles to carry it on your shoulder or in your hand. Plus, it’s only $19.98 (so snag it before it’s gone).   

Storage Master: 

There must be sorcery in the FUGU Travel. The suitcase expands to nearly three times its size when its side walls are inflated– taking it from a small carry-on bag to a medium-sized checked bag. You can watch the transformation here. The convenience of not having to tote along a second bag on trips made this a top pick. The fact that it weighs less than 10lbs and you can buy a FUGU USB power bank for charging your devices from the bag on the one, made it one of my favorites. The FUGU Travel is $349 including the USB power bank.       

Snappy Switch: 

 

What’s cooler than a multitasking bag that can be worn three ways? One that’s around $40, but looks like it cost way more. The Clean Vintage Hybrid bag can go from backpack to messenger bag to briefcase instantly by unzipping built-in, hidden straps.  It includes a padded pocket to stow a laptop and compartments for all your travel essentials. Just add a change of clothes to make this your new favorite overnight bag. The Clean Vintage starts at $41.19.   

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Join Me For Macy’s Absolutely Fabulous Shopping Party Thurs. July 14 @ 6PM

There are two things I loved more than anything about the 90’s – colored jeans and Absolutely Fabulous. Sadly, both disappeared from my world; but they say if you love something enough it will make its way back to you.

I guess they’re right, cause not only is the new Absolutely Fabulous movie being released, but I get to help Macy’s celebrate it with the shopping party of the season –and you’re totally invited.

AbFabPoster-339x500Come get all glammed up with me at Macy’s Herald Square on Thursday, July 14 at 6:00 PM and check out stylish looks inspired by Absolutely Fabulous: The Movie. The fun and free event includes complimentary mini-makeovers from the experts at MAC and Hairroin Salon, sweets and treats and fun Ab Fab swag that you can take home!

It’s a party that would make stylish and shady Pats and Eddy proud, so you know I’ll be there when the clock strikes 6. We’ll be on the 3rd floor – Women’s Department.

Stop by and say hi. I’ll be easy to spot. I’ll be the one hoarding all the colored jeans;).

More dets here.

See you there!

Disclosure: “This post is sponsored by Everywhere Agency; however, all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.“

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Booze & Brushes: 5 Reasons Every Grown Woman Should Try A Painting Party

There comes a time in every grown woman’s life when going clubbing becomes an activity reserved only for bachelorette parties and reminding significant others what you’re working with. (Ahem, don’t make me pull out THAT dress;))!

For all other times, I like to unwind and recharge in ways that allow me to have fun while exploiting all the benefits of being a sophisticated, urban-dwelling legal adult. One amazingly cool “grown woman” activity I’ve been into lately is painting parties.

I recently signed up for Muse Paint Bar in Tribeca with my bae, Gabby and it totally lived up to our grown woman expectations. Not only was it super affordable (classes start at $39 per person) and laidback, but it was also really easy to create the actual painting. I’m totally here for any activity where I can destress by laughing with my friends, have a good glass of wine and let my creative side free.

Whether you need a break from taking over the world or a new entertaining activity for you and your boos, here are 5 Reasons Every Grown Woman Should Try A Painting Party:

 

A photo posted by sj_monèt???? (@sj_monet) on

  It’s Fun As **** – It really is. Everyone in the class is there to have a good time.  Whether you go alone or with your girlfriends, you’ll find yourself giggling with the stranger across from you and asking her how she got the paint that shade of periwinkle blue.  

 

  A photo posted by Nika_she (@reality_chek25) on

 

You’re Not In Competition With Anyone – There is something amazingly disarming and wonderfully refreshing about a structured group activity that allows your creative individuality to still shine through. I found myself admiring the paintings of the women around me, but still feeling very pleased with the one I created. Sure their trees may have been fuller than mine, but I loved the way the colors of the water met the sky in my painting. Oh, if only the world was one big painting party.

 

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There’s Booze – Muse Paint Bar has it’s own bar, but many painting party studios are BYOB. So, all your nervousness about creating the ‘perfect’ masterpiece will gently fade away as lose yourself in the swirl of colors and sweet Chardonnay.

 

 

A photo posted by @muse_paintbar on


The Instructor Is Your Guide But Let’s You Be You
 – Want to paint the sky green and the lake orange and add flames to the tree? Great. Do you. The instructor is here to guide you through each part of canvas but isn’t running a paint-by-numbers sweatshop. They are totally happy to help you follow along with recreating the work at hand or help you add your own personal flare. You get to determine your creative vision and feel comfortable knowing someone will help you with it.

 

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Gabby and I showing off our artistic creations.

You’ll Feel Pride Every Time You Get To Tell Someone “I Painted That” – I personally feel that everyone woman should own some creative that she made herself from soup to nuts. There is nothing like the pride you feel when someone asks, where did you get that and you get to say, I made it. I dare you to try not to crack a smile. You won’t be able to.

Muse Paint Bar has locations in a number of cities. If they’re not in your area, I totally recommend checking Groupon or Yelp for a class in your city.

-XOXO Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

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Live Like A Local Tours Makes NYC Feel More, Local

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a proud native New Yorker. I love everything about New York City, so much so that it makes me a little sad whenever I have to tell people that I now live in New Jersey with my fiancée. Love makes you do crazy things. In truth, Jersey with its easy commute to Manhattan, oddly cheery inhabitants, bike friendly lanes and spacious apartments has grown on me, but the siren song of my hometown will always be there.

So, when I was invited by Live Like A Local Tours to try their Williamsburg Bites food tour, I decided I was up for a weekend NYC adventure. Since I grew up in Harlem, I thought this would be a fun way to explore and learn a little more about Brooklyn and try out a few new food spots. Plus, the press release/invite sounded like it was written by a total hipster and promised to show me “hidden wonders” and Brooklyn’s “creative charm,” so I figured it would turn out to be a great story no matter how the tour went.

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The Tour Group

We met outside of a popular Williamsburg restaurant (my fiancée tagged along with me) and kicked off the tour. Our tour guide turned out to have the right amount of historical knowledge, food savvy and sports humor to make him completely charming. By our first stop at Best Pizza, I was totally digging the tour.

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At the pizzeria, we not only tried two of the houses most popular slices (a red sauce and an all white), but also got to speak to the owner, Frank Pinello and learn more about its history. The pizzeria use to be a bread bakery and Pinello uses the century old wood-burning oven to make his pies. Pinello grew up in Brooklyn and learned how to cook from his grandmother.

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Frank Pinello – Owner Best Pizza

After graduating from culinary school and working at restaurants and chains around the city, Pinello decided to bring his flare back to Brooklyn. He opened Best Pizza in 2010 and has been turning out some of the best slices in city ever since. It’s no wonder that this was the first stop on the Tour. It was definitely some of the best pizza that I’ve had in the city (and I’ve had a lot of NYC pizza in my life to compare). Totally worth a trip on the “L” train to grab a slice and meet this food-preneur.

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From there, we hit a series of independent food, coffee and dessert spots that were all really amazing. I was also really impressed by the fried chicken and biscuits at Pies N Thighs. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any pie, but am looking forward to going back and correcting that oversight. The comfort food spot was opened in 2006, by two transplant chefs and has racked up a number of “best of” awards while becoming a neighbor staple.

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Over the course of our three hour tour (our tour time ran over the advertised 2.5 hours), we stopped in five stellar food spots, explored graffiti artwork, admired and discussed the impact of the Williamsburg Bridge, took in brilliant sights of Manhattan from the pier and had tons of laughs with our group.

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The City Reliquary Museum

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The Tour provided just the right amount of food, fun, education and exploration to make me feel both at home and the joy of discovering something new. I really loved learning more about Williamsburg and being able to connect with the amazing entrepreneur-owners and chefs at each stop.

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We had such a good time that my fiancée and I decided to buy Tour tickets for some family members for their upcoming birthdays. I’m looking forward to comparing notes and finding out which food stops are their favorites. I’m also looking forward to showing off my favs to my tourist friends when they visit. I am a NYC local after all :).

– à bientôt

Charell Star | Not Just A Girl In A Dress

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No Time For A Vacation? Stop Telling Yourself That

Don't be this guy in the office!

Don’t be this guy in the office!

Labor Day has come and gone, symbolizing that summer is coming to an end. Say goodbye to warm days swimming at the pool and laying on the beach. Wait a minute, you didn’t get to do that? You are not alone.

According to the US Travel Association, 40% of Americans do not take advantage of all their vacation time.  You may be thinking, “I didn’t have time to take a vacation” or “if I want to get ahead in my job I need to show everyone how hard I work by not taking time off.” Wrong.

The truth is you help no one (least of all yourself) by being a martyr. In fact, an internal research study conducted by the audit firm Ernst & Young, found that employees who took more time off and used all of their vacation days actually did better in their work.

So, stop letting the days off you’ve earned go to waste. No more excuses. Take a day off and go back to the office feeling refreshed and productive.

bientôt

 

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Essence Festival Recap – Living In the Moment

This year’s Essence Festival in New Orleans was fun in more ways than one. Normally when I visit the Big Easy, I’m so inundated with work that I don’t get to enjoy the magic happening around me. But this time I took a more intentional approach and really made the most of my experience. I was able to take part in some very inspiring events and get some one-on-one time with some iconic trail blazers.

You know things are going right in your day when you get the opportunity to chat with award-winning actress Sanaa Lathan and CurlBox founder Myleik Teele. I was honored to help them prep for a “Beauty in the Media” Panel for P&G’s My Black is Beautiful. As a fellow entrepreneur, it was so incredible to hear these savvy ladies share their thoughts on their respective industries and how we can counter the negative portrayals of women displayed in the media.   

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CurlBox founder Myleik Teelee, actress Sanaa Lathan and Charell Star

I also ran into the fabulous Jamie Foster Brown. As the founder of Sister 2 Sister Magazine, Ms. Jamie (as I have taken to calling her) knows a thing or two about countering stereotypes. Her magazine recently celebrated its 26th year anniversary and has grown to include local and national female empowerment events. Not too bad for a woman who once said, “I never thought of myself as a writer.”

Sister 2 Sister founder, Jamie Foster Brown looking fierce at the 2014 Essence Festival.

It was also fun to spend some time with celebrity Gain Girls: Trina Braxton and Towanda Braxton. The songstresses stopped by the Gain flings! Music To Your Nose booth to kick it with DJ Kiss and talk about why the smell of Gain’s new single-unit laundry pacs give you as much joy as listening to your favorite song. Those two must have a wardrobe chest the size of Fort Knox, so I’d think they would know a thing or two about keeping their clothes smelling fantastic.

New Orleans Photographer Frank Aymami

Trina Braxton, Towanda Braxton and DJ Kiss at Gain flings! Music To Your Nose booth

Celebrity DJ Kiss was the epitome of professionalism when she showed up early to spin for the Gain flings! Music To Your Nose cocktail reception held at the Little Gem Saloon in the Red Light District. Traffic was so bad around New Orleans she didn’t have time to go back to her hotel to change. She was such a sweetie and I was able to make some PR fashion magic happen. I produced this Mint Market number for her to wear on the carpet and she look fabulous. Kiss has been instrumental in creating a path for other female DJs to jump into the male dominated industry, so it felt so great to be able to help her out in this small way.

New Orleans Photographer Frank Aymami

DJ Kiss at the Gain flings! Reception rocking a dress from Mint Market.

The highlight of my weekend was spent listening to empowerment empress, Lisa Nichols share her words of wisdom at the My Black is Beautiful ‘Beauty In Action’ Dinner. Nichols’ story of taking back her life and believing in herself (before anyone else would) was so inspiring it left the entire room feeling like we were out of excuses. The event was part of My Black is Beautiful’s Imagine A Future initiative mission to reach and teach 1 million girls and women that their Black is beautiful. I welcome any program that helps build the self-confidence of women and girls, and this one is no exception.

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Transformational coach Lisa Nichols inspiring guests at the My Black is Beautiful ‘Beauty In Action’ dinner

My spirit was so rejuvenated after spending time with these ladies July 4th weekend, I (almost) felt like it wasn’t work at all. Here’s to setting the intention to live in the moment and absorbing all the good lessons that surrounded me. I can’t wait for my next big event.

Are you taking the time to enjoy your work or are you too focused on just getting things done?